Carmakers pushing for 3-year delay to tougher CO2 tests

European carmakers are pushing to delay by three years new rules that would strengthen the ways car fuel-efficiency and CO2 are measured.

The European Commission plans to introduce a new test cycle in 2017 – the World Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP) – which would close vehicle-testing loopholes such as pre-charging the car battery; using unrealistic vehicle weight and rolling and aerodynamic resistance. It wants to introduce the more stringent standards by September 2017, but Reuters has reported an industry paper says carmakers ‘cannot envisage vehicle testing beginning before 1 January 2020’.

Carmakers are also calling for an extra year's delay before all new cars use the new test, according to the paper from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) – of which BMW, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler are members.

Recent research by T&E shows that fuel-efficiency figures achieved by drivers on the road are on average 38% poorer than official figures claimed by carmakers. This divergence has increased from 15% in 2008 when new CO2 rules were introduced. It casts a cold light on the latest emissions figures published by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) last month.

The EEA found carbon emissions of the average new car sold in Europe fell 2.6% in 2014 to 123.4g/km. So, while on average new cars in 2014 achieved 5 litres per 100km in tests, on the road the car consumed closer to 6.5 – costing a typical motorist around an extra €350 in fuel a year at current prices.

At an event called How to end the fuel testing scam?, hosted by consumer organisation BEUC, Peter Mock of the International Council on Clean Transportation commented that he felt none of the improvement in the last year may have been realised on the road.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: ‘These figures need to be treated with extreme caution. Most or all of the measured improvement is being delivered through manipulating tests, not delivering real-world improvements. We need the new test to be introduced without further delay.’

EU governments and the Commission met last week to discuss the date of the new test’s introduction and which techniques manufacturers will be allowed to use when testing vehicles under the new rules. Member states now have until 29 May to submit their positions, and a final decision will be taken by the EU Climate Change Committee in autumn. At the meeting, carmakers proposed that test flexibilities continue to be allowed for in the conversion of the 95g/km target and they were, as expected, supported by the German government. Carmakers also proposed to be exempted for up to 2g/km of penalties.

Greg Archer added: ‘We all know by now that pumped-up fuel economy figures are the direct result of carmakers gaming the lab tests. EU governments have the opportunity to stop these abuses from 2017.’